Over 2,000 complaints about the smell were sent to the Environment Agency (EA) between 12 and 19 April and on Monday 200 people protested in Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre, to “stop the stink”.
NHS support worker, Emma Lawton, wrote on Twitter: “As driving around the city and county is part of my job I get to see and visit lots of different places around Stoke and Newcastle. Having driven through Silverdale today it’s safe to say I have never in my life seen or smelt anything as disgusting as Walleys landfill.”
On 22 April, the EA published a briefing on air quality, revealing that “there was a peak in the recorded levels of hydrogen sulphide on the 7 and 8 March, where one of the monitoring stations off Galingale View registered data for concentrations… above the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 24-hour health-based guideline value of 150 µg/m3”.
Hydrogen sulphide is a poisonous, corrosive gas with an eggy smell.
The agency found that human health should not be impacted, stating: “Due to the brief time period of elevated concentrations we would not expect there to be any long-term health consequences, however individuals may experience unpleasant odour and occasional nausea, headaches, dizziness, or irritation of eyes and airways.”
Walley’s Quarry is operated by Red Industries, and has planning permission to receive waste until 2026, when it will be capped. The site is unusually close to housing and the local council stated in February that it “has been highly controversial for several years now”.
A spokesperson for Red Industries said: “Walley's Quarry has operated as a landfill site since 2005 and has been managed by Red Industries since November 2016. We recognise that we are hosted by the local communities in which we operate and are acutely aware of their concerns regarding our landfill operations.
“We have voluntarily curtailed operations to accelerate an extensive capping programme which will seal a substantial and extensive area of the site. We can confirm that the accelerated programme of capping and other engineering works being undertaken on the site is on plan for completion, as agreed with the regulator, by 30 April 2021.
“This capping programme will continue throughout the remaining life of the quarry, which will stop accepting waste in December 2026, at which point the area will be restored to green field.
“The facility is regulated and monitored by industry specialists at the Environment Agency on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and their experts are currently carrying out another air monitoring study in the vicinity of the landfill.
“Red Industries employs more than 250 people within Newcastle-under-Lyme and the wider region and, through the landfill tax communities fund, has contributed more than £1.7 million towards community projects within three miles of the site.
“We respect the community's right to take part in peaceful, lawful protest."